Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Lying on the sofa the other morning, revelling in the fact that with the Red Head at pre-school I could lie there and look out of the window and very decadently just ponder, I pulled out from under one of the scatter cushions – the very same cushions that Hubby has deemed ‘pointless’- an old copy of the Sunday Times Style magazine, unwrapped a Turkish Delight and sunk my teeth into both.
Inside the magazine was an article on celebrity mothers and their ilk and I was told in no uncertain terms that ‘shabby chic’ is the look one must adopt if one is ever to be considered a ‘Yummy Mummy’. From what I could gather from the fashion journalist, to achieve this look, which must be thrown together as though one has not bothered at all, when in fact one has bothered an awful lot, is that one has to wear a holy trinity of garments: a cheap or high street item, something vintage and something designer. I sighed and looked at myself, my skirt – from Tesco’s was certainly cheap and most definitely high street and the pink t-shirt I had on, which I bought when breastfeeding my first born 14 years, was unarguably vintage. Two out of two so far; I looked down at my feet which were shod in Birkenstocks – ha result, ‘designer’ flip-flops, sadly however, also cheap and vintage having been bought second hand on eBay last summer. I closed the magazine in despair, jostled with my stomach, prodded it, squeezed it, held it in but whichever way I looked at it, neither it nor my clothes could ever be considered yummy.
Sighing I dragged myself off the sofa, picked up my keys and handbag and went to retrieve the Red-Head. It being a glorious day I couldn’t bear to go home and sort out the airing cupboard or scrub the skirting boards, nor did I really want to spend the afternoon saying no to Cbeebies or chastising my child for making a mess every time my back was turned, so, instead of driving straight home from pre-school, I drove over the Tamar Bridge, up the A38, across Marsh Mills roundabout, through Plympton, stopping to visit my brother at his car show room before driving on up to Saltram House.
As my tyres crunched on the stately gravel as I pulled into my parking space, a feeling of doom was cast over me. The car park was heaving, and spread on picnic rugs around the grounds were a host of golden mother’n’kids, beside the pond, beneath the trees, fluttering and laughing in the breeze. Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their highlights in sprightly dance.
My own child, having been in pre-school all morning, looked, as my brother rightly pointed out, eccentric. Skinny at the best of times, she is recovering from yet another vomiting bug that has rendered her ‘fragile’. Her arms and legs are like sticks, her bottom totally flat, yet she is very tall so clothes literally hang off her – (the fashion journalist would be rubbing her hands in glee). On this particular occasion she had on a paint encrusted t-shirt, a pair of her elder sister’s leggings and her hair, beautiful always, was today, up in a crazy bun on top of her head whereas some stray tendrils, curly and sticky with marmite were dangling down either side of her face like an orthodox Jew.
“Sit on a blankie mummy”, she demanded pulling at my skirt for me to sit down.
“We don’t have a blanket darling”, I said.
“Me jumper”, she suggested. There was no getting out of it, she wanted to mingle with the Golden Mummies and their children, so with a heavy heart, I went to the boot, unearthed an old fleece jacket that had seen far better days and lay in out on the grass. I lowered myself down and watched the ease with which little children make friends. Within seconds she was playing with a group of boys and girls, picking daisies with them and shrieking with giggles and pretending to hide when a helicopter flew over. Of course I was now in the unenviable position of having to make small talk with the mothers. Their rugs without exception were Cath Kidston, as were their picnic bags and flasks. One woman, I kid you not, had brought her golden retriever, who very regally hung out of its Cath Kidston floral dog basket with a very superior expression. After twenty minutes of excruciating chit-chat where I gleaned that they all worked part-time in something noble or at least interesting, they called their Boden clad kids over for their picnic. Now as a girl of the 60’s, the picnics I was brought up on and thus attempt to replicate for my own family are cheese-spread sarnies, hard boiled eggs and a twist of salt, sausage rolls, a flask of tea and some crisps. If we were lucky, a Penguin biscuit would be lurking somewhere at the bottom of my mother’s duffle bag.
Not so these picnics. The mothers removed from their floral oil-cloth bags items of food that would have had my own children recoiling in fear and dread. The woman on my left took out a Little Trading plastic tub wherein lay some spelt bread and in another plastic container was a tangled mass of sprouting mung beans and celery. The other mum opened a tub of organic, roasted red pepper hummus and a packet of sunflower seeds. Peppermint tea was the drink du jour. My own child looked bereft. “Me lunch too mummy”, she said.
“I haven’t got a picnic sweetie”, I said quietly.
“Would she like some seeds?” asked one of the mums graciously.
“Yuck”, said my child rather too emphatically, “Not me seeds, me Quavers”.There was a gasp. Had she said Turkey Twizzlers they couldn’t have been more shocked.


Peggy said...

Kids are so brutally honest. Who wouldn't prefer Quavers over seeds?

Sally Lomax said...


I laughed!!!

Our picnics in the 60's and 70's were similar to yours. I always remember if we went on a school outing, my packed lunch had a hard boiled egg in it, a sandwich and maybe for a treat, a scotch pancake! It warmed my heart to see this.

But Alice, I do have to disagree!! YOU have a part time job of interest and nobility too! You are a columnist!!! A much desired role!

enidd said...

enidd's mum's picnics were very similar to yours, even down to the penguin. enidd remembers eating hundreds of the things, to get a free camera or something.

enidd's also a bit fed up of the whole yummy mummy thing. mummies aren't supposed to be yummy - stayng that way is a huge job and not one you'd want to take on if you have children, enidd would have thought.

Alice Band said...

Dear Peggy, Sally and Enidd,

What a lovely surprise to find you all there! I've just schlepped back from the WI market with my eggs, a bun chomping 2 year old and fab flowers that I harrassed the manager of Somerfied to give me for £2.49 instead of £9.99!! There is a really bloody awful blogger around. He is called Unlce Norman and his comments to and about Petite Anglaise are truly worrying. Watch out.

Lisa said...

That was great, although I don't know a lot of things, I could figure it out (and I do know Boden, so the rest was pretty self-explanatory.)
I hate making small talk with the mothers at my daughter's school, most don't work, and usually 'lunch' with each other.

Sally's ED said...

At my junior school, there was one family who were like that, and the vegan children, who were perfectly disciplined around their mum, used to snack on milk-chocolate as a way of rebelling!
The son in my year was then kicked out of his grammar school at 16!
Just remember that all of those children will be smoking round the back of mcdonalds by their teens, due to supressed childhoods and the need to rebel!
and old style picnics are the best! Eggy sarnies and quiche yum yum yum =)

Alice Band said...

Dear Sally's ED,
What a fine person you've turned out to be - eloquent and sensible - without being boring. I bet those Sunflower seeders poop through the eye of a needle!! Sorry to your mother for being rude but I bet it's true!!

Alice Band said...

Lisa - a quick glossary. Saltram House is a statley home owned by the National Trust in Plymouth.
Boden, Cath Kidston the Great Little Trading are all catalgue based stores that sell a certain middle class lifestyle! Quavers are a crappy cheesy/chip snack that kids love!!

Lisa said...

Thanks Alice!
Quavers sound like the Goldfish here.
I've gotten your comments and tried to e-mail a reply, but they keep getting bounced back to me!

Sally's ED said...

Haha =P
And thankyou, it MUST be due to my upbringing, compliments to my mum =D x

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Alice!

I'd like to send you an email, but don't have your email address! Mine is:


Looking forward to Tuesday's blog. Do you post the newspaper version, or yours?

Lisa said...

I'm with Sally, I can't reply to your comments!

Sally Lomax said...

So do you have to wait til Tuesday? Or can we have a sneak preview of the first paragraph or something?

Orange Monsoon said...

hilarious blog! although i am very envious of your sitting and relaxing!